Monks care for 159 children at the Maliwan Temple north of Phuket
Photo by phuketwan.com
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Burma's Temple of Children: Photo Special
By Chutima Sidasathian and Premkamon Ketsara
Sunday, May 12, 2013
VICTORIA POINT: Tolerance appears to be lacking among Burma's Buddhists these days but we found an endless supply of it at the Maliwan Temple, 30 kilometres north of the Thailand border.
There, five Muslims are among 159 children being cared for by the Abbot, Pairat, and 13 monks. The children are abandoned, orphaned or simply unwanted, for any number of reasons.
The youngest is a six-month-old girl and the monks are all experts in changing nappies.
After hearing of the brutal treatment of Muslim Rohingya and their children in Rakhine state, spending a day with the monks and their young charges provided a welcome contrast.
Poverty accounts for many of these children being at the temple and some are the unwanted offspring of sex workers from both sides of the border.
''We raise the children with care,'' said Abbot Pairat. ''They are free to chose what path they wish to take in life.''
Over the 27 years that the temple has become a sanctuary for children, hundreds of young men and women have achieved an education and a fresh start here.
Since the Songkran Festival last month, with its message of renewal, many of the children have chosen to become young monks and nuns, the boys wearing deep safron and the girls dressed in pink.
This part of Burma, north of Victoria Point on the Burmese side and a short distance from Ranong on the Thai side, has been home to more than 100 Thai families as well as Burmans and Mon for decades.
The anger and hate that have brought accusations of ethnic cleansing and potentional genocide in Rakhine state are unlikely to ever cause divisions here.
Buddhists from as far afield as Mandalay, hundreds of kilometres to the north, visit to help the temple with gifts of food and clothing.
Travellers from the outside are rare because, strictly speaking, the temple lies in a restricted zone.
We watch the children at play and at prayer. One or two are cheeky, as children always can be, but they are paired with older children. Nobody knows how to treat children better.
The advantage of cooperation is something they quickly learn. Taking classes is a daily activity, with the children separated into three age levels.
Each month, a doctor visits to check their health.
''We ask nothing from the children,'' said Abbot Pairat. ''Once they can care for themselves, they are free to go. The number grows year by year.''
Clothes for children aged five to 10 are needed, along with milk. Phuketwan is making another trip to the Maliwan Temple in a few weeks. People who can help are welcome to call Chutima (English or Thai) on 089 4725117.
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Not wanting to diminish the sterling effort of the Monks, but the story raises an interesting question. Are things now so bad on Phuket, that it is necessary to go close to 400km's, to find a good story. How far can you go, and still call it Phuket news, pushed the limits even further north than phang nga. My hat goes off to the Monks.
Our horizons are unlimited. What's happening in Burma today will affect Phuket tomorrow.
And who is watching the monks? Does the Ministry responsible for "Family" inspect the premises etc. I anticipate that I will be taken to task for asking such a question, however it is a legitimate question when one considers the allegations of abuse over the years in respect to similar undertakings in Thailand. Other religious orders have a long history of misbehaving when given such duties.
Pedophilia, tv stars and priests with insatiable lust, serial killers, random mass murderers and men who imprison women for sex are all Western afflictions, Ryan. Asia is not suffering an implosion of morals and values.
This is a good heartwarming story and thanks to Phuketwan going the distance to give us a smile today, knowing that kindness is still around. Stop complaining.
Humanity is above all.I salute the respectable Abbot. Inter faith harmony, peaceful coexistence and tolerance among the different religions and cultures is the main duty of human beings. Every Religion teaches this love ,peace and respect to human beings. We should have to learn how to practice it in our dailly life. I appreciated Phuketwan's precious publication and its decision to visit and cover the news of respectable Abbot.
Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT on May 13, 2013 13:1